A Palm Beach County circuit court judge approved the issuance of subpoenas against a media company that may have surveillance footage that shows New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft paying for sexual acts at a Florida day spa.
Judge Joseph Marx on Tuesday said he would allow attorneys for Orchids of Asia day spa owner Hua Zhang and therapist Lei Wang to subpoena The Blast, an online news site, and telephone companies with identifying information about a tipster who allegedly contacted The Blast and forwarded a copy of the Kraft footage.
An attorney representing Kraft in his prostitution case took the witness stand Tuesday to support an emergency motion filed by attorneys for Zhang and Wang.
The motion seeks to hold the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office and the Jupiter Police Department responsible for the potential disclosure of surveillance footage obtained during the criminal investigation of alleged prostitution at the day spa.
Kraft’s attorney, Alex Spiro, described communicating with the CEO of The Blast, who said his company was sent a copy of the footage.
“There’s only two entities that had it — Jupiter Police Department and the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office — and then all of a sudden it gets leaked,” said Kathleen Phang, the attorney representing Wang. “It didn’t get leaked for months and then all of a sudden somebody’s trying to sell it allegedly. It hasn’t leaked yet.”
Judge Marx said there was not sufficient proof to issue court sanctions Tuesday, thus denying the emergency motion, but he requested that the state attorney and Jupiter police outline their protocols for keeping the footage secure.
Earlier Tuesday, Palm Beach County Judge Leonard Hanser ruled that the footage should not be made public until a jury is seated, a plea agreement is reached or the state relinquishes its case, according to The Associated Press.
Kraft was charged in February with solicitation of prostitution in a sweeping criminal investigation that netted dozens of men after police installed the cameras inside the Jupiter day spa, which investigators suspected to be involved in human trafficking. Prosecutors have since said there is no evidence of human trafficking at the spa. Zhang, the spa owner, and Wang were arrested in conjunction with the investigation.
With human trafficking no longer at issue, attention has focused on the fight over surveillance footage. News organizations, including the Miami Herald, have sued to ensure public access to the video. Kraft and others have fought to keep it under wraps.
The Herald has said it has no interest in showing explicit footage but wants to preserve the principle of public access to court evidence. Managing Editor Rick Hirsch said the footage might also answer lingering questions about how investigators handled the case.
Phang told reporters Tuesday that she was pleased with the judge’s actions Tuesday, even if he did not approve the emergency motion. Her concerns were valid enough to warrant some legal action, she said.
“Just because the judge denied this motion doesn’t mean that we didn’t get what we need, which is the videotapes are still protected. They’re not released,” she said. “None of this is out in public.”